Tag Archives: Ottawa

Developing a Personal Point of View

I stop for a latte and drink in the view. The café, six tables and a banquette against the plate glass wall, offers a window onto the Byward Market and the Gatineau hills. Wind pushes the clouds across the city in an ephemeral drama of light and shadow. A commercial crane, red and ten stories tall, anchors the scene.

I blink and the operator appears in the cab, a glass pod of levers and the nerve centre of his crimson behemoth. He takes his lunch – a bowl of noodles judging by his gestures – enjoying a mirror image of my view. The café is a democratic place to see and be seen.

Since the founding of Ottawa, and its designation as the nation’s capital, unimpeded views have been commonplace within the downtown core. With the easing of height restrictions, a trade-off for increased density and “highest and best use of land,” new buildings push the limits.

Before me, the once-180 degree view has been reduced by a third with the installation of a dozen-floor condo development. To its right, the crane, with its unrelenting appetite for height, will ensure that the middle third of this long view disappears within weeks or months. As years pass, fewer will enjoy what many have taken for granted: a big sky and a way to navigate the city by natural means. However, development offers its own perspective.

I scan the condo windows for signs of life but all is quiet. Moments later, a woman in a white robe and hijab moves into the frame, a truncated theatre of the body from the waist up. She bobs into view then disappears as she prepares for midday prayers. The hills tell me she is facing east although her precise direction will be predicated upon the position of the sun and the particulars of her geographic location. As a follower of Islam, she will enact this ritual as many as five times a day like clockwork: before dawn, mid-morning, noon, mid-afternoon and evening.

Aside from being a personal act of faith, ritual is a subset of placemaking and timekeeping like the secular sights, sounds and smells that populate our public and private lives. I know, for example, it’s 9:00am on Sunday because the church bells ring or that it’s 7:00am because my neighbour runs past my house every day at the same time. In a few hours people will return to these windows to prepare dinner, drink with their friends, or, like me, take in the sidewalk ballet. As onlookers, we reflexively perform the role of one another’s keepers with an arms-length connection to the overarching narrative of daily life.

Lunchtime is over and the crane is moved to action with its box step of ordered predictability: swing, lower, raise, repeat. I drink up and drive home, still taking in the view.

Developing a Personal Point of View

Developing a Personal Point of View

Developing a Personal Point of View

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Capital Building: A View from Washington – Part 1

In spite of the oppressive heat and humidity of August in Washington, D.C., I did what I like to do best: I walked around, looked at things and talked to people. This being my first trip to the capital, I focussed on the National Mall, exploring adjacent neighborhoods, and my relentless pursuit of Guastavino tile

In D.C., security is the conversational opener in the same way people elsewhere talk about the weather. 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing were cited as the salvo, the traceable moments in time when Everything Changed. Reduced accessibility was visible on the streets, in screening procedures employed at every public building, and in architecturally-based security features. And what you couldn’t see – the behind-the-scenes invisible – hung in the air. Continue reading Capital Building: A View from Washington – Part 1

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360° of Franc van Oort (Pt. 1)

For the two years I attended trade school at Algonquin College, Perth became my second home. Between classes I photographed the countryside, explored abandoned buildings, foraged in antique shops and became a regular visitor to Riverguild’s mezzanine, concocting a mental list of the works I would buy from artist Franc van Oort when I’d finished spending money on my greedy old house. Continue reading 360° of Franc van Oort (Pt. 1)

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Walking with Our Sisters

Over 1,181 native women and girls in Canada have been reported missing or have been murdered in the last 30 years. Many vanished without a trace, with inadequate inquiry into their disappearance or murders paid by the media, the general public, politicians and even law enforcement. This is a travesty of justice. ~ Walking With Our Sisters website
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Almost two thousand pairs of moccasin vamps, or uppers, lay evenly spaced, side by side and end to end, on the floor of the Carleton University Art Gallery, a breathtaking mosaic of traditional beadwork, sewing, painting, embroidery and other creative embellishment. A red fabric path, underlaid by cedar boughs, guides participants around and through the landscape of colour. Continue reading Walking with Our Sisters

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24 Sussex Drive is Falling Down

Contrary to opinions offered by former tenants of the building, reality television stars, CBC listeners, and social media commentators, there is no single right answer to the question: What should become of the Prime Minister’s residence at 24 Sussex Drive?

In fact, it doesn’t matter whether the building is razed or retrofitted. Either way, there will be gains and losses, which is the nature of choice. The answer lies in the the more difficult question: What do we want 24 Sussex Drive to be? Continue reading 24 Sussex Drive is Falling Down

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A Zibi Kind of Day

Sunshine. Twenty degrees. Light breeze. Birdsong out-gunning any human distractions. Views to the Ottawa river. And wildflowers, vines, bushes and trees in bloom everywhere.

It was just another perfect day shooting the Domtar lands as part of the Workers History Museum cataloguing project.

While the industrial buildings remain the focus, Mother Nature with her natural green roofs, biodiverse ‘gardens’ and window boxes have taken over, distracting me to no end.

 

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Walk for Reconciliation

Until last Sunday I’d never done this kind of thing before.

By 3:45am I was driving through rainy blackness heading to the Sunrise Ceremony on Victoria Island, in the middle of the Ottawa river. The ceremony would mark the beginning of the close for the six-year-long Truth and Reconciliation Commission examining the effects of Indian residential schools on Aboriginal peoples and culture.

I stood amongst 200 or so souls, shivering under unsettled skies, feeling awkward. I wondered about my right to be at such an important event, wondering if I was taking up someone else’s space, mildly terrified I would do or say the wrong thing, feeling the weight of my ignorance. I needn’t have worried. Almost immediately a woman gathered me under her red umbrella, included. I watched and listened as the lighting of the sacred fire unfolded, but my role wasn’t an entirely passive one. As I would learn over the following days of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, through my presence and attention I was being called as a witness to the past and a bearer of knowledge into the future. Because we can never un-know what we know, we must move forward.

A few hours later I caught the shuttle from Ottawa’s City Hall to Gatineau to join in the Walk for Reconciliation. The walk was:

…designed to transform and renew the very essence of relationships among Aboriginal peoples and all Canadians. It sounds so simple, but just the act of gathering and walking and sharing our stories can join us all in a shared commitment to creating a new way forward in our relationships with each other. Our future depends on being able to simply get along, respecting each other for the unique gifts we bring.”1

I didn’t expect the walk to be magically transformative and it wasn’t. My goal was to show up, stand up, and begin to wake up to the legacy of Indian residential schools and the Canadian government’s assimilation policies. I’m tired of my own ignorance and of feeling useless in the face of the inevitable racist cloud that forms whenever the “Indian subject” arises. I don’t wish to pontificate, but it’s important to be able to explain my point of view and separate fact from fiction.

So last week I walked knowing it marked the beginning of a journey and not the end. It was a small, tangible action I could take in the face of such massive devastation.

Watch TRC Commissioner Marie Wilson speak about the purpose of the Commission and why it’s about Canadian history and not Aboriginal history.

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  1. http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=864 

Shooting the Domtar Lands – Part 2

Another glorious day working outside, this time photographing a series of attached buildings beginning on the corner of Rue Eddy & Boulevard Alexandre-Tache. The mostly stone buildings are encased in high chain link fencing, held tight by cross-wires and reinforced by steel posts and beams endeavouring to keep all the bits together. Bill worked the overview from across the street and I shot details, dancing with the thousand or so cyclists who apologized, ducked and rode around me and my tripod on the sidewalk cycling path.

Today’s theme was texture and patina, the kind of patina you pay thousands of dollars for on new pieces of furniture masquerading as DIY Brooklyn Boho. Changes in texture marked the transition in buildings, in age, in style, in charm factor.

I saw curly emerald paint swaths, flaking, embossed tin tiles vertically installed on building fronts, metal fascia and eaves and dormers one after another still plumb, level and square, fragile, dangling clapboard stripped by countless days of sun, rain, snow, and wind, creeping nature, fractured glass panes, warped window screens, stone window sills with crumbling peaks of sand in the corners, folds of unsuitable stone installed in a place where it doesn’t belong.

On the very northwest corner at the end of the building series, I discovered the prize at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box: a carved stone plaque reading The E.B. Eddy Co. 1892 and below, a ghostly stone arch, now infilled but boasting the visible remains of carriage door hardware. Easy to miss with its subtle change in stone type and colour and the plaque placed so far above eye level. I only noticed because I was looking through my ‘camera eye.’

Cataloguing these buildings I fully appreciate they are the real deal: They are history made manifest, irreplaceable, invaluable and the backbone of Ottawa’s post-contact built history. New buildings can be gorgeous and satisfying in their own way, but they aren’t this.

Further reading:

Everything Changes: Shooting the Domtar Lands

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Photographing the Domtar Lands – Part 2

Another glorious day working outside, this time shooting a series of attached buildings beginning on the corner of Eddy & Boulevard Alexandre-Tache. The mostly stone buildings are encased in high chain link fencing, held tight by cross-wires and reinforced by steel posts and beams endeavouring to keep all the bits together.  Bill worked the overview from across the street and I shot details, dancing with the thousand or so cyclists who apologized, ducked and rode around me on the sidewalk cycling path.

Today’s theme was texture and patina, the kind of patina you pay thousands of dollars for on new pieces of furniture masquerading as DIY Brooklyn Boho. Changes in texture marked the transition in buildings, in age, in style, in charm factor.

I saw curly emerald paint swaths, flaking, embossed tin tiles vertically installed on building fronts, metal fascia and eaves and dormers one after another still plumb, level and square, fragile, dangling clapboard stripped by countless days of sun, rain, snow, and wind, creeping nature, fractured glass panes, warped window screens, stone window sills with crumbling peaks of sand in the corners, folds of unsuitable stone installed in a place where it doesn’t belong.

On the very northwest corner at the end of the building series, I discovered the prize at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box: a carved stone plaque reading The E.B. Eddy Co. 1892 and below, a ghostly stone arch, now infilled but boasting the visible remains of carriage door hardware. Easy to miss with its subtle change in stone type and colour and the plaque placed so far above eye level. I only noticed because I was looking through my ‘camera eye.’

Cataloguing these buildings I fully appreciate they are the real deal: They are history made manifest, irreplaceable, invaluable and the backbone of Ottawa’s post-contact built history. New buildings can be gorgeous and satisfying in their own way, but they aren’t this.

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If I were a kid at Jane’s Walk Burritt’s Rapids…

…THIS IS WHAT I’D DO:

1.  Attend the family-friendly Jane’s Walk ‘n Talk called: Disappearing Habitat: Killing the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg.  John McKenzie has a natural history museum in his workshop and there’s lots to see and touch (Sunday)

2.  Take a paddle up the Rideau Canal in a 16-passenger Voyageur Canoe complete with costumed guides (Saturday/Sunday)

3.  Pack a lunch and picnic by the river (Saturday) or picnic/potluck (Sunday)

4.  Hunt around the village to find the ten objects on the scavenger list and claim my prize at the Community Hall (Saturday/Sunday)

Click here for the Scavenger Hunt list

5.  Hike to the Stoney Steps (Nope! I won’t spoil the surprise) (anytime)

6.  Check out David Watson’s European sportscar collection, which is way nicer than my family van (Saturday)

7.  Walk to Other David’s Open Lab and see what cool science projects are happening (Sunday) – appropriate for older kids

8.  Explore the Tip-to-Tip Trail (I’m on an island!) (anytime)

9.  Say ‘hi’ to the horses at Lone Wolf Farm (anytime)

10.  See how many species of birds and animals I can spot; see if I can find Turtle Rock on the way to the Lock Station (anytime)

11.  Take a reading break in the library at the old Lockmaster’s House (Saturday)

12.  Go to church with my family (Sunday)

13.  Play in the park behind the hall, on the swings down by the beach, and goof around with my new friends (anytime)

If I were a kid I’d be playing to my heart’s content!

If I were a kid....
If I were a kid….

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